During July–August 2003, the seventh season of excavation at Tel ‘En-Gev was carried out by the Japanese Expedition for Biblical Archaeology, headed by A. Tsukimoto of Rikkyo University, Tokyo (License No. G-49/03). These excavations are conducted in the framework of the ‘Land of Geshur Project’ under the direction of M. Kochavi from the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. The excavation team included M. Okita and N. Yamauchi (chief archaeologists), Y. Paz (Israeli liaison), K. Hirakawa, H. Hino, T. Sugimoto, A. Echigoya, H. Kuwabara, S. Miyazaki, M. Ezoe (field supervision), S. Hasegawa (registration), F. Chiwaya (surveying and drafting), H. Nakano (photography) and G. Avivi (administration).
This season had two main goals: to find the northeastern corner of the Iron Age casemate wall, which had been excavated continuously since 1992, and to expand the excavation of the early phase of the Iron Age tripartite pillared buildings, which were exposed on the acropolis (northern part of the tell). The stratigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman remains was investigated as well.
The Iron Age Casemate Wall. The excavation area was extended northward (Sqs Q5–S5). The northern corner of the Iron Age wall was not reached, yet several structures that probably belonged to the corner complex were uncovered. A room of the casemate wall (L410) was revealed beneath the Hellenistic wall (W400; see below). The outer wall of this casemate was badly disturbed; some of its large stones were reused in W400. Together with the adjacent space (L412), which was fully exposed this season, it was confirmed that all the casemate rooms had an upper layer, composed of fallen bricks (probably from the wall’s superstructure), burnt material and decayed bricks, which contained a large amount of Iron Age pottery, as well as numerous clay loom weights; at least 15 weights came from Room L410. However, the lower fill layer in Room L439 yielded almost no finds. An irregular stone-paved surface was discovered at the bottom of this room. This surface, clearly paved during the construction of the walls, was intended, most likely, to strengthen the foundation of the casemate wall against subterranean waters. A stone surface of some form had presumably existed in all the rooms of the casemate wall, although its exposure was limited to Room L439. It is further assumed that the lower fill layer was deposited when the casemate wall was constructed, again for supporting its foundations. It is not yet clear whether the construction and the filling procedures were contemporary or belonged to two chronologically different phases.
The location of the fortification's northern wall had not been clearly established. The tips of stones that were exposed within the northern edge of Sq Q5 may represent a wall, which could be part of the inner northern casemate wall.
The fortifications plan of the northeastern side of the acropolis is not completely clear. It seems that a large structure (width c. 10 m), which consisted of several small rooms, was annexed to the northern city wall. These rooms (L405, L420) showed the same features as the eastern casemate rooms (Loci 410, 412, 439), except for the absence of clay loom weights from the upper burnt layer.
The pottery analysis from the previous seasons had shown that the construction of the fortification should be dated to the tenth century BCE; no indicative finds were recovered from this season. It seems that the fortification was in use for at least two centuries, between the tenth–eighth centuries BCE.
The Early Tripartite Pillared Buildings. The early building complex, which consisted of three tripartite pillared buildings, was further exposed in Sqs O8–9 and M–N15. It became clear that the rows of pillars in the northern pillared building (Sqs O8–9) continued further west. The top of the stone foundation of the building's northern wall (W431) was lower than the pavement that abutted the wall (0.2–0.3 m). The same was true for the southwestern corner of the southernmost pillared building (Sqs M–N15). A stone pavement (L442) immediately south of the wall (W456) may be part of an alley, running between buildings. Although the southwestern cornerstone of the building is stable enough to be identified with the corner of the entire complex, the proposed alley may suggest that another structure could have existed further south.
A difference of c. 0.5 m between the floor elevations of the northern and southern tripartite buildings was discerned during this season. It is not yet clear whether this difference implies diverse dates of construction of the two buildings or simply a result of the process itself. It may be assumed that Stratum V (see below) had two phases, i.e., two different early buildings, although evidence to substantiate this assumption is still lacking. A similar difference of floor elevations was observed in the pillared building complex at Tel Be’er Sheba‘ (Beer-Sheba II: The Early Iron Age Settlements, 1984, p.15 ff). This issue will be further explored during the next season.
Hellenistic Remains. Two Hellenistic phases were detected. Wall 406 superimposed an earlier wall (W426), while W415 abutted an earlier wall (W383). Another Hellenistic wall (W445; width over 2 m) was oriented northeast–southwest. The wall was built on the slope that had been created by Iron Age debris. Wall 446 was perpendicular to W445, whose continuation further east (W400) superposed the Iron Age casemate wall. Since W400 utilized the stones of the Iron Age wall, it is feasible that the latter was fully or partly exposed when W400 was constructed. The brick superstructure of W400 could be seen in the northern section. The difference between the top levels of W400 and the Iron Age casemate wall was over one meter; it obviously reflected the sloping nature of the site, as well as the different periods during which the two walls were built. Walls and structures of the earlier Hellenistic phase clearly stood in the same orientation as W445; walls of the later phase were sometimes perpendicular to them, e.g., W446.
Limekiln 374 (Sqs QR–6). The kiln was fully exposed this season. The circular stone structure (diam. 3.5 m), which partly reused the Iron Age walls, was plastered on its interior upper part, whereas the lower part was built of brick material. Yellowish burnt material was found inside, along with Hellenistic and Roman pottery. The kiln could be dated to the Roman period, since it had disturbed the Hellenistic structure. Furthermore, Carbon 14 analyses from another limekiln (L360; Sq Q9) excavated in 1998, gave a date in the first century BCE–first century CE.
Our stratigraphic sequence is given below to avoid confusion with the strata labeling of Mazar’s 1961 excavation.
Stratum J-I Roman (limekilns)
Stratum J-II Hellenistic
Stratum J-III Persian (pits dug into Iron Age strata)
Stratum J-IV Iron Age II: late tripartite building (ninth–eighth centuries BCE)
Stratum J-Va-b Iron Age II: early tripartite buildings (tenth–ninth centuries BCE)